Getting Cultural in Athens

Our selection of the top five places where the city’s artists meet.


Athens remains an artistically restless city. Experimental theatre, alternative seminars, amateur exhibitions and (unplugged) live concerts all find homes in several dynamic spaces, the creative centres that bring people with similar tastes and interests together. We’ve put together a list of the most important meeting points: the spaces that aim to offer an insight into the latest developments in the Athenian music, theater and visual art scenes as well as whatever else can compellingly connect the world of art with a vibrant social scene.

BIOS

Ten years ago, Bios began hosting concerts with music being played directly from laptops when nothing of the sort had ever been seen in Athens before. Many would attend largely out of a sense of curiosity in the face of the new. Back then, when technology was taking its first major and greedy steps, significantly impacting our lives, Bios, with its slogan of “exploring urban culture,” provided Athenians with an education in the new audiovisual arts. “When that phase passed,” says the center’s artistic director, Vassilis Haralambidis, “we recognized the need to return to the body. And so theater and the performing arts were very dynamically added to the program.”

Bios has a tradition of hosting unconventional and impromptu parties (such as the Trashathon, where one is expected to wear fairy lights and dance to classic chart-toppers and old Eurovision songs), as well as seminars in acting and night photography, outdoor rooftop movie nights under the Acropolis, live acoustic swing sessions and performances by debut artists. Visit their website to find out when the next party is at Tesla (their hip-vintage bar), the dates and times of their free yoga classes or when you can see English-language performances.

84 Pireos, Gazi • Tel. (+30) 210.342.5335 • www.bios.gr

ROMANTSO

Two years ago the Bios team launched Romantso in an abandoned 1940s industrial building located in what has become one of the grittiest parts of Athens: Omonia. The building was once home to the offices and printing press of the eponymous lifestyle magazine, which had its heyday in the 1950s and 60s and was once the biggest seller of its kind. “I found a survey by the environment ministry,” Vassilis Haralambidis explains, “which said that this was the most problematic area in Greece due to migrants, drugs, fumes, etc. Out of naïve stupidity we didn’t listen to anyone and began renovating the building because we said that if you want to make a real intervention in the city, you have to go and reinvigorate its deadest part.”

Romantso now operates as an incubator for the ideas of numerous creators (architects, graphic artists, musicians, designers, etc.), who can rent office space for fixed time periods, ensuring there is a steady turnover of people. The space also hosts concerts, art exhibitions, rock music lessons and markets featuring products from Greek designers and producers. It is also a general meeting point for a broad spectrum of individuals with curious minds. That, Haralambidis concludes, is the characteristic shared by all those who frequent Bios and Romantso. “It is something that can be found in the wealthy and the poor, in hipsters and mainstream types, in university professors and computer geeks.”

3 Anaxagora, Omonia • Tel. (+30) 210.342.5335 • www.romantso.gr

SIX DOGS

Six Dogs is a well-known and much loved music-oriented complex comprising four different spaces which host parallel events. In other words, while you’re nodding your head to the beats of an up-and-coming Greek or foreign band in the “gig space”, next door in the large hospital-white box known as the “project space,” a discussion may be taking place about the cross-art of a new artist who has been exhibiting there for the past week. Meanwhile, in the bar at the other end of the building, a daily rotation of Athenian DJs pump out the music, while if you descend the stairs at the main entrance you will find yourself in an amazing, lantern-lit garden-atrium with wooden benches where patrons sip homemade lemonade. The “silent bar” logic here brings back memories of cafes in the pre-Wi-Fi era, when people actually spoke to each other.

6–8 Avramiotou, Monastiraki • Tel. (+30) 210.321.0510 • www.sixdogs.gr

BLACK DUCK

In the mornings at the Black Duck Multiplarte café-bistro, old men sip Greek coffees while talking politics. Classical music plays in the background, just loud enough for the melody to be discernible but still soft enough so that one can overhear young people conspiring over the next big but not-ready-to-be-announced project of the art world. Or you can get inspired in the intimate and comfortable basement gallery; it allows for whispers to be overheard and conversations to be sparked. The exhibitions, which change every two weeks, may be of paintings, photographs or, occasionally, sculptures and. As the day progresses, the atmosphere in the warm artistic lounge changes, as do the music and clientele. From jazz and soul, the music transitions to well-known songs from the 1960s and 70s.

Live music nights are also regularly held, featuring tribute bands as well as well-respected contemporary Greek singers. If you feel hungry, you can order a freshly made sandwich in the bistro while perusing something from the lending library that includes Greek and foreign literature. Or climb the stairs to the standalone restaurant that resembles the warm dining room of an art lover’s home, with delicious Mediterranean dishes as well as European-inspired offerings. Particular attention has been paid to the wine list, which is kept up-to-date with Greek labels. Then hit the bar! DJs man the decks five days a week and over the weekend the party lasts well into the small hours. Do you dance?

The establishment’s little brother, the Black Duck Garden, housed in a well-maintained neoclassical building, has a similar philosophy. The garden is closed off in the wintertime, but features a gorgeous patio with an impressive semi-circular bar and tables, a wisteria-laden pergola and large potted plants and flowerbeds which give the space the air of a classic aristocratic garden. Brunch, lunch and dinner are available, with similar dishes to those on offer in Multiplarte. Bonus tip: as the sun goes down, the building is lit up with a wonderful light. Inside, one can also spend hours in the comfortable lounge, which is decorated entirely with pieces created by established and up-and-coming artists. These are masterfully positioned in the space to create surprising compositions.

Multiplarte: 9a Christou Lada • Tel. (+30) 210.323.4760 Daily: 10:00–01:00

Garden: 5-7 Ioannou Paparigopoulou • Tel. (+30) 210.325.2396  Daily: 10:00–19:00

METAMATIC:TAF

Light passes beautifully through the enormous white awning that provides winter cover to the open-air atrium of the classic 19th-century Athenian building. Here wood and stone make up walls that look run-down yet formidably robust, walls that have already lasted for a century yet appear to have a long future ahead. Rumors abound as to the original purpose of the building, but all remain unconfirmed: a women’s prison, stables, workshops, homes for families in the 1950s… Once a customer came and said, “my grandfather used to live here, I remember it,” the building manager tells me. What is certain is that the building, which resembles the setting for a classic Greek film, has, since 2009, housed Metamatic:taf.

Open for all ages from morning until late, Taf, as it is generally known, connects with almost every facet of Athens’s cultural life. The atrium operates as a café-bar which is notable for its selection of locally sourced cured meats and other Greek products such as beers from local breweries. Meanwhile there’s a gallery on the first floor, as well as in the surrounding rooms that were once separate homes, artworks are on display including paintings, photography and multimedia exhibitions by well-established or up-and-coming artists. They may be varied but all share a focus on modern, topical issues, often seen through a particularly Athenian lens. Here you can also watch award-winning short and feature-length films, live jazz events in the atrium, workshops, performances and much more.

5 Normanou, Monastiraki • Tel. (+30) 210.323.8757www.theartfoundation.metamatic.gr


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